Growing Groups

Working for the Voluntary Sector in Hastings

Future Charcoal Slump

I’ve been updating some more of our work website today, namely the pages advertising volunteer vacancies.


A few years ago, when I was a skint local government councillor and balancing my time between changing the world and low paid temp work – I started editing web pages by getting a book on HTML from the local charity shop. After this, I just played about by pinched the source code from interesting sites and tried adapting it for the types of pages I wanted – when people are being nice they call this ‘standing on the shoulders of others’. All this has been useful grounding for using web editing software, because no matter what package you use, you always have to go back and ‘unpick’ things that go wrong on pages by reading the code every now and again. In fact I’ve never actually bought any software for web editing and at the moment I use a freebee download called NVU for web editing


And upload pages to our hosting company server using another freebee FTP package from coreftp


The end result is that you can get a useful website on line for about £50 a year.


Cycling in to work today I noticed my ‘local’ Shell garage was deserted and the conversation at the office has started to touch on lack of petrol and how people are dealing with this. My own anxiety presently extends as far as the possibility of a run on 3 in 1 at Halfords, but I’m sure the whole thing will become far more real to me later in the week when I need to go back up to Reading again. And what happens to all the other things that petrol stations sell while this is going on, is there going to be a slump in the charcoal briquette market?


June 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A ballanced weekend


I don’t know where the title ‘ballanced weekend’ comes from – maybe its a  mixture of the song Funky Weekend and the Audit Commission methodology of a ballanced score card – who knows.


Anyway, I drove back to Hastings early on Sunday morning and grabbed an enjoyable enjoyable few hours on the allotment. The spuds needed earthing up, I used an old washing line to make some wires for the loganberries to grow on, staked a red current bush – which was listing badly with the weight of fruit – I harvested the seeds of the poached egg plant for next years green manure and removed all the field bind weed from the lavender.


Got back to work and realised that I was in grave danger of missing the date by which we have to reregister our domain name. So I quickly stumped up the cash on-line before someone else bought the name and tried to sell it back to us at a huge profit. Here is a top tip, over the years I’ve discovered that its best to get one company to hold your domain name and another one to provide hosting. That way, if the quality of the hosting gets worse you can quickly get someone else to do this for you and redirect the name towards a new company.


Also uploaded the pics from the Certificate in Community Volunteering Awards Ceremony to our flickr account. I always put pics on the Flickr account because its a presence elsewhere on the web which creates an extra route into  (in the same way that that did) and helps boost our google rating.




June 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back to work


Because I’m presently spending lots of time sorting things out for my widdowed mum in Reading, I took a day off yesterday and spend some quality time with my significant other. We went to right on Brighton, met a friend in the gardens by the pavillion, sat in the sun demolishing some Tesco Express sarnies  , bobbled round TK Max and I played with the precious things in climbing shops.

Today I’m adding stuff to the volunteering section of the website at work, which will augment the guidance notes for Volunteer Using Organisations which I uploaded on Tuesday. Once that is out of the way I will add some more pics of different sector events to our flickr account (I put the pics up here because lots more people in the local area will get to learn about HVA through Flickr than are likely to simply remember our name and type us into their browser).


June 12, 2008 Posted by | voluntary | | Leave a comment

A good weekend

All the June copies of Hastings Community News got collated, enveloped and posted out on Friday, which meant the week ended with the sense of physical satisfaction which comes from identifying a job finished.


In my past life as an elected councillor for Central St Leonards, I remember spending lots of time in the presence of social policy wonks and other politicos, but somehow I never quite gained the same satisfaction from a weeks encounters with people who chewed through ideas for a living that I got from physically doing something myself. Quite why this should be the case has always been a bit unclear – I never felt left behind by what was going on and felt quite able to punch my weight when discussing the heavy stuff – but after about an hour in a room with people who did that sort of thing full time every day, I always had this overwhelming urge to get silly, snooze or do something practical. For many years I worried that this urge was maybe a combination of low blood sugar or poor attention span and it clearly required more intellectual discipline on my part! Being slightly older now ( 47) , I  firstly realise that its perfectly normal and most sensible people would rather not to twitter on in closed rooms for days upon end  and secondly its just that little bit delusional to believe the magic formula for the best way of doing things  is inclined to gestate in that sort of environment.


In between feeding the washing machine, Saturday was spent planting rocket, radish , red mustard and lettuce, transplanting French beans and potting on the tomatoes.


Sunday I went out to play, spending the day climbing on the sandstone outcrops in Birchden Woods. This was with other members of my local climbing club, some of whom were discussing their bus passes and other were discussing the best way to get to the Old Man of Hoy (the things pensioners get up to these days!). A full winter season of indoor climbing practice and dropping a stone in weight has helped me to get up a few 5a / 5b climbs that I don’t think I would have clambered up last year, so with a full summer season ahead I hope to be as fit as the bus pass brigade by September.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | climbing | Leave a comment

Places change

I spent last weekend in Reading, doing some probate stuff, clearing out rubbish that my late Father had accumulated and helping my Mum sort out the blackberry bushes in the garden. If you want to grow briar fruit you have to make sure the new runners are trained in one direction for next years crop, while the 2 year old flowering stems are left to do their thing for this years fruit. I’ve learned that this is a painful process if left too long into the summer.


I’ve had an allotment for years but I’m learning that suburban gardening is very different. It seems to involve a healthy amount of ‘over the garden fence’ conversation with neighbours. For me this generates a slightly hesitant edge, because I’m now catching up with people who I haven’t really seen for about thirty years.


I’m learning to respond to ‘Hello stranger, what have you been up to?’ by reducing the last thirty years to ‘oh this and that and how are you?’ Then, because of the age of most of Mums neighbours, the conventional thing is to exchange some anecdotes about the NHS.


Like most people on their estate Mum and Dad moved in during the 1960s, and together with the rest of the road they all grew old together. Over the years, the original open plan areas of grass between the houses were gradually converted into a forest of overgrown garden centre shrubs and lap larch alley ways. The architects’ were originally inspired by creating a housing scheme with all the roads on one side of the houses and all the paths on the other side. This helped to keep cars away from pedestrians and kept the profits of the construction company up, because they saved one pavement for every row of houses. But over the years the open paths and houses set on individual open plan lawns have given way to fenced off gardens and narrow alleys. So the alleys become abandoned and everyone walks down the roads because they feel safer for pedestrians.

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Enjoying the exacting

Yesterday evening I got back to some indoor climbing again and started to exercise fingers and forearms on the bolted routes at the Bexhill College indoor wall. This is a bit of a broom cupboard but its got overhangs, its dry (unlike the rest of the South East yesterday) and you can do some bolted leading.


Over the past few weeks I’ve missed the escapism you get from concentrating on something as specific as climbing – which always imposes a sort of condition of needing to concentrate on getting a series of small moves absolutely right, while your mind wants to run riot on the consequences of getting any one of them just a little bit wrong.

May 29, 2008 Posted by | climbing | Leave a comment

Dealing with death

I’m glad to be back at work after a couple of weeks off, following the death of my dad, which was a not entirely unexpected event, though still traumatic for my mum, who has drifted into being his full time carer for the last couple of years.


Both my sister and I live on the South Coast about 100 miles away from Reading , so there has been much travelling and many overnight bags packed and unpacked in the past fortnight. But we’ve muddled through (as most people do) in the endless round of death certificates, post mortem, undertaker, registrar, ministers, funeral arrangements, catering, invitations, ceremony, strewing of ashes, probate applications, building society and bank negotiations, pension adjustments, council tax recalculations etc, etc.


So being back at work feels just fine at the moment because while its important its nothing thats a matter of life and death.




May 28, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back to basics

I learned my dad came out of Hospital yesterday, since he didn’t need any further operations but just ‘flushing through’. Good news for us, but bloody painful for him.


Yesterday I went on a training course in Eastbourne for Information Workers from different CVS across East Sussex and today I’ve been putting some of what we learned into practice. One of the items was about exploring the potential of Google Calendar as a mechanism for creating shared information about training and events across the county. So today I’ve been setting up a google account, building a calendar, knocking up a second outlook calendar and trying out how much we can get for free.


End result:


This weekend I’m going to plant some more spuds on the lottie and maybe go back up to Harrisons Rocks to see if I can shin up the very evasive Niblick

May 9, 2008 Posted by | Allotment, climbing, voluntary | Leave a comment

Bank Holiday Weekend

Its been a bit of a difficult bank holiday weekend. On Friday night my Sister rang to let me know that my Dad was in hospital with bladder problems – this has ended up with him having to have a blood clot removed and be catheterised over the weekend. The problem is that he also has dementia, so he is a difficult patient, who keeps removing all the doctors work and going walkabout on the ward. Visiting him in hospital was challenging but it was good to be able to meet my Mum and drive her to the hospital on Sunday. Mum is in her 80s and is my Dad’s carer, but she is not in a good place herself at the moment – recovering from a cancer operation in the recent past. The odd thing is that having him taken into hospital has been a really good rest for my mother. Anyway, I get to hear more tonight so we shall see what develops, when (or if) he gets to go back home and if any operation is needed.


Sunday evening I drove back from Reading to Hastings and spent Monday on the seafront witnessing a traditional bank holiday motorbike run and morris dancing festival. 




May 6, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m working next to a giant filing cabinet

The building next to my office window has been growing over the past year, its all part of some new offices and College Buildings that Seaspace have developed as part of the regeneration masterplan for Hastings.

All seemed fine until every floor was equiped with some giant draws, which are about 20 foot long and 5 foot high. It feels like shades of Spinal Tap in reverse and clearly someone has over estimated the size of some of the new students and office workers who will be using these buildings.

April 22, 2008 Posted by | Hastings, voluntary | Leave a comment